A couple years ago, Shane Loeffler was flying back to the United States from the U.K. He found himself wondering what specifically was below him as he flew over the glacial formations of Newfoundland and Quebec. Once he returned home, he began to brainstorm ideas of how to create an app that could provide such inflight data. At the time, Loeffler was a geology student at the University of Minnesota. He reached out to the National Science Foundation for a grant and just a short while later began development of the Flyover Country App.
How the App Works…
Flyover Country uses maps and content from numerous databases. These sources provide information about geological, paleontological, and man-made features of the earth.
The app analyzes a given flight path and caches relevant map data and points of interest (POI), and displays these data during the flight, without in flight wifi. By downloading only the data relevant to a particular flightpath, cache sizes remain reasonable, allowing for a robust experience without an internet connection. (source)
Flyover currently utilizes more than 12 different data sources. These include fossil localities from Neotomadb.org and Paleobiodb.org, core sample localities from LacCore.org, and Wikipedia articles. The app also employs the user’s current GPS determined location, altitude, speed, and heading.
In addition, the app requires a clear cloudless day to operate at its best. Although, in the future, the development team is hoping to involve a meteorologist. The meteorologist would provide information about how clouds are affected by specific topography and wind patterns.
Beyond just providing information for a better understanding of the earth, the development team is hopeful that the app will bring awareness to the human effect on earth.
“I hope that people will get an idea of the connectedness of geology and weather and humans and see the scales of things,” Myrbo, a co-developer, says. “There are these huge expanses of open spaces, but you can also see massive, massive evidence of human effects on the landscape, whether it’s dams backing up rivers, mines, deforestation or agriculture. There are these incredible natural features, but there is also a huge, ever-increasing human overprint to all of this.” (source)
Flyover Country is currently available as a free download. You can expect to see glaciers, mines, and dinosaur bones listed in your particular flight data.
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